Messages such as: you will never amount to anything, why can’t you be like your sister, why won’t you listen, how can you be so stupid.
Some are direct labels: fatty, teacher’s pet, stupid, etc. All of these cut deep into our psyche while growing up.
As adults, we often don’t realize that we continue to listen to those old messages. When things go wrong, our services are no longer needed, there are unwarranted reprimands, or we never receive positive feedback, those old messages can be triggered and we hear our “Internal Critic” remind us of all our failures, our inabilities, our lack of worth, yet again.
First we re-experience the feelings we felt: shame, anger, frustrated, worthless, helpless, unimportant, defeated, depressed, disgraced, demoralized, miserable, unappreciated, and discouraged along with all their accompanying thoughts that say, we are no good, won’t ever amount to anything, why try, etc.
These messages become statements of truth when we are children. A child accepts them as a true reflection of who they are. Children do not have the ability to question their validity.
But these are not statements based on fact but rather are biased, skewed and emotional comments that usually have little to do with us. But once we accept them as fact and truth, we not only listen to them, we continue to defend them as adults.
That internal tape recorder that replays things from our past is our Internal Critic. When we become stressed, life becomes uncertain, our job skills are rejected or we are challenged to make important life changes, the play button on our tape recorder is activated and our Internal Critic begins reminding us that we are no good and never will be.
Past experiences can teach us to not make the same mistakes over and over again and can help us examine behaviors and attitudes to make better choices.
But our internal critic has nothing good to say about us. Its message is always the same: We are flawed, we will always make the same mistakes, and we will always screw up.
How can you tell when your internal critic is talking or when important past experiences are giving you information?
Your internal critic gives you no options. Its message is cast in stone. You are worthless. This is who you are. You screwed up in the past so you will screw up in the future.
Past experiences may reflect our bad choices, but we are given options to make better choices. We don’t have to make the same mistakes. We can learn from them. And, past experiences also affirms all the things we have done well.
In Monday’s blog, I will give you some strategies to turn off your Internal Critic.
©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC